Baby ashes consultation to go ahead, minister confirms

Babies whose ashes were not returned to their families Image copyright Family photos
Image caption Some of the babies whose ashes were not returned to their families by Emstrey Crematorium.

A consultation about baby cremations in England and Wales will take place later this year, Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage has said.

It comes after an independent report published last month, into failings at Emstrey Crematorium in Shropshire.

It said no ashes were handed over to parents of children under the age of one between 1996 and 2012.

There will also be reviews of crematorium facilities and out-of-hours services provided by coroners.

The Action for Ashes campaign group had handed in a 61,000-signature petition to the government, calling for the return of cremated ashes to be a legal requirement after 60 families were unable to obtain their babies' ashes from Emstrey.

Parent involvement

Ms Dinenage said she was "taking action to make sure that after a cremation infant ashes are returned to bereaved families".

She added: "Parents should not have to experience any additional grief like those affected by the issues in Emstrey have faced.

"I am also continuing work to make sure bereaved people are at the very heart of the coroner system - it is paramount that the services are there to help the whole community."

She also told BBC Radio Shropshire the national consultation would include bereaved parents in the process.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Staff at Emstrey said they were not aware babies' ashes could be recovered from the cremators

Glen Perkins, who formed the Action for Ashes campaign group, said he was "blown away" that a consultation had been approved so quickly.

"I thought there would be more of a fight but I'm really pleased that there are going to be changes made," he said.

"We really need to have a lot more scrutiny over cremations."

Old equipment at Emstrey meant the small quantity of ashes resulting from a baby's cremation were lost in the system, as staff failed to manually override the cremators.

David Jenkins, the solicitor and former council chief executive who led the independent inquiry, said he had been "struck by the absence of authoritative national guidance" and proposed the creation of a national inspector of crematoriums.

National inspections

Recommendations from the Emstrey Crematorium report and a separate investigation in Scotland by Lord Bonomy will be part of the proposals to be put forward for consultation.

A review of the out-of-hours service will also be held to ensure coroners are "sensitive to the needs of the whole community", including those whose beliefs require burials to take place quickly, the Ministry of Justice said.

And the Department for Communities and Local Government will review existing crematorium facilities, to ensure they are adequate for communities.

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